Open Access Open Badges Research article

A web-based Alcohol Clinical Training (ACT) curriculum: Is in-person faculty development necessary to affect teaching?

Daniel P Alford12*, Jessica M Richardson1, Sheila E Chapman12, Catherine E Dubé3, Robert W Schadt4 and Richard Saitz1256

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA

2 Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

3 Department of Community Health, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

4 Department of Educational Technology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

5 Youth Alcohol Prevention Center, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

6 Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2008, 8:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-8-11

Published: 6 March 2008



Physicians receive little education about unhealthy alcohol use and as a result patients often do not receive efficacious interventions. The objective of this study is to evaluate whether a free web-based alcohol curriculum would be used by physician educators and whether in-person faculty development would increase its use, confidence in teaching and teaching itself.


Subjects were physician educators who applied to attend a workshop on the use of a web-based curriculum about alcohol screening and brief intervention and cross-cultural efficacy. All physicians were provided the curriculum web address. Intervention subjects attended a 3-hour workshop including demonstration of the website, modeling of teaching, and development of a plan for using the curriculum. All subjects completed a survey prior to and 3 months after the workshop.


Of 20 intervention and 13 control subjects, 19 (95%) and 10 (77%), respectively, completed follow-up. Compared to controls, intervention subjects had greater increases in confidence in teaching alcohol screening, and in the frequency of two teaching practices – teaching about screening and eliciting patient health beliefs. Teaching confidence and teaching practices improved significantly in 9 of 10 comparisons for intervention, and in 0 comparisons for control subjects. At follow-up 79% of intervention but only 50% of control subjects reported using any part of the curriculum (p = 0.20).


In-person training for physician educators on the use of a web-based alcohol curriculum can increase teaching confidence and practices. Although the web is frequently used for disemination, in-person training may be preferable to effect widespread teaching of clinical skills like alcohol screening and brief intervention.